Except for the weight, this is the double you've always wanted. Improving upon and shortening their older Northstar offering (see the name similarity?) by deleting the central storage compartment, the Polaris is slightly shorter, 10lbs lighter, more efficient and above all more comfortable than its predecessor.
You cannot deny the heavy weight. If you use your bail to keep the boat empty when you take it out of the water, and maybe take your gear out before carrying it into or out of the water or loading onto your car, two people of some (not necessarily a lot) of strength can do it with some difficulty. Being more fit and strong helps but not as much as you would like It's not an easy boat to carry but it can be done. This is really the only negative.
The best thing about this kayak is the comfort. With the new Airpro fibers and seat technology this might very well be the most comfortable set up I have ever had the pleasure to sit inside. Not only are the cushions extremely comfortable but the seat is adjustable in a multitude of directions. Gone are the days of your legs falling asleep, back aches, butt pain. I am quite fit but I find some kayaks just give me sciatica or leave various parts of my mid sections hurting; not here. It's like sitting on a very luxurious easy chair and you can melt hours away paddling without worrying about being uncomfortable. Welcome to the Lexus of kayaks!
The behavior of this kayak could best be described as heavy, stable and fast. It's neither quick nor playful, however if the other paddler knows what they are doing and is so motivated turns can be accomplished, as in most doubles, rather adeptly. You can turn on a dime but when this happens you lose all your momentum so you need to power out and that takes a bit. Given the weight and the plastic hull you feel a heaviness when paddling and that's the name of the game. It's not as crisp or as light as as a composite but the wind won't toss you around as much either. It is much nicer to use the rudder for trim but you don't need it.
The stability is very confidence inspiring. Given the weight and the width this is one of the few boats that I can get into without needing to brace with the paddle to the side if I am getting in from a beach where I don't want to launch or getting out when I don't want to beach the boat like on rocks or near a cliff. I never feel tippy in this boat and it is up there in terms of overall stability but the speed doesn't seem compromised and I think that a lot of the stability is due not only to some width at 29 inches, but also the weight so it's not necessarily a boat that trades a lot of stability for speed and it uses other factors while still using a reasonably fast hull. Race boat speeds you won't accomplish but thanks to its overall length two people can get quite a head of steam going without trying exceptionally hard.
Compared to 14 foot long singles the miles seem to melt away. Recently I paddled just over 8 miles in 2 1/2 hours but this was taking four, yes four stops at four different beaches for different reasons, either bathroom breaks, taking a drink, eating a snack or just wanting to check out the scenery. You can beat the current much better than with a shorter boat and its manners in waves are pretty stolid these qualities make a boat that from its comfort, to stability, to exceptional seakeeping works well in a longer journey, especially if you need the plastic durability to shrug off impacts with rocks.
The only problem is that the boat's length is such that it won't float over waves like a shorter one where you might put in a good two or three stroke burst to plane the hull on the way up preventing water splashing into you or getting a rough ride. Here in the Polaris the length makes it harder to cut through or float smoothly over the wave and you bang up and down. It's worse for the person in front who feels like they get airborne. You could take two singles in similar sea conditions for a smoother ride but then you won't be "beating the waves and current" as much. You pick your boat and paddle in it living with the consequences of your choice. I would say the longer journey you have in mind, the more the double has an advantage.
The fit and finish as well as quality of fittings is top notch. Not only are the seats the best I've ever experienced but you have "mini" storage compartments in front of the cockpits for things like tools, equipment, radios, navigation aids or even drinks. The compartments are just large enough to fit all of these at once! The rigging is nice too as are the handles, and the rudder works well and is easy to raise and lower. 20 years later all the acoutrements have benefitted from more advanced technology vs the Northstar so while the money seems expensive, you're getting a very nice boat.
Compared to our Stellar ST17 which is a composite double of similar size it's less playful. The composite is a bit faster, more responsive, certainly more efficient but it's upset by wind more whereas the Polaris has a more sedate demeanor. This is not a bad thing. If I am paddling with my kids who are very attentive to heading and correct for wind and current well it's not a big deal but if your other paddler doesn't want to pay that much attention the extra weight, stability and less responsiveness can work in your favor.
The fact that this boat is of a certain length also lowers the "divorce boat" potential though the Stellar ST17, being 5" shorter than the Polaris is a bit in that direction but so is the Polaris, just not as bad. The problem here is the Polaris is 8" shoter than the boat it replaced and those 8" were in between the two paddles with an extra storage compartment so with that one hitting each others' paddles was impossible. Here it can happen so while you don't have to be perfectly coordinated if the stern paddler is not paying attention you will have mild problems. Not quite divorce boat territory indeed but something to pay at least a little bit of attention to. Put the more passionate, "in control" paddler in the back who keeps an eye on these things and the more mellow person in the front who cares less and it will all be fine.
A note about paddling this boat alone, it can be done. When the kids were smaller we wouldn't even give them a paddle and my wife and I would take the Polaris and Northstar each with a kid in front (we have two). The going is slower but with an adult and kid in the double, and an adult paddling a single alone, the double, even though we did it long before we could trust the kids with paddles, was always faster. So this boat is more tiring to paddle alone, but can be used this way if a vehicle to take a family member who is unable to paddle such as a younger child. It just costs you more energy and you won't go as far but you'll still be faster than a single; it will just take more energy but for a slight effort increase you'll go significantly farther.
Overall I love our Wilderness Polaris. It's a comfortable, stable, fast and easy to use kayak that can cover a lot of ground and take a beating on the rocks. I love the seats, I adore its forgiving nature but I just wish it wasn't as heavy. This is a good boat for families for example to stick a child in the front, or for couples that want a craft to enjoy the water that can withstand impacts. It's not maneuverable enough for white water but its seakeeping is good enough to allow it to paddle just about anywhere else other than rapids where one would wish to paddle. It's a step up from its predecessor, the Wilderness Northstar which we also have in every way save the loss of the central storage compartment if you're going on an expedition and need to bring that extra amount of gear. If you are willing to lug around an 85lb boat which is just about the limit of what two people can reasonably do well, there really are no other drawbacks .
It's a niche boat as plastic tandems have faded given the weight but if people would look past that it's not that bad. Things like trailers which are not that expensive really help, Trailex makes some very inexpensive models that cost less than the difference between the Polaris and a composite or more light weight double.
I give this boat 5 stars as there is nothing I would change about it; the only way to improve on certain things like the weight would mean going to a lighter, and less durable material which would prevent it from being our go to boat for paddling off the rocky beach behind our house. Having cut weight, improved build quality I think Wilderness systems is doing just about the best they can with plastic, and it shows as the Polaris is the peak of the pannicle when it comes to rotomolded tandems. If you're in the market for a plastic double in the interest of durability or keeping costs down, or are looking for a more family friendly boat where you can keep a younger one up front the Polaris is a fantastic choice. Thank you Wilderness Systems, I love your update to the Northstar. I hope you keep making plastic doubles as magnificent as your Polaris.
Stellar really makes Stellar boats, if you ever want to put a smile on your face try one and you'll see! Just when you thought tandems were heavy, bulky beasts to lug around and maybe fast but a little too like bloated luxury cars in their demeanor when you wanted the room for a second paddler or a little more gear but didn't want to give up the sports car feel in your kayak. Enter the spectacular Stellar ST17.
This is a very different kind of boat that is confusing at first to paddle as the performance and speed is disconcerting. If ever you wanted a certain kind of immunity from the elements, at least as far as your speed goes, this craft does it very well. You can paddle right into the wind and current almost as if they weren't there. Like a good composite minimal effort already gets you underway at a very satisfying rate of speed. If you want to go faster, all you have to do is paddle harder. It's not like the shorter boats where the length limits your speed and more effort makes you go at best marginally faster. Here it's incredible how little you have to try to reach any speed so with a strong partner it's tempting to try to push the "MORE FASTER" button and paddle the living daylights out of the boat. It will erase any misconception that "speeding won't get you there any quicker. As a matter of fact this Kayak can be so fast that you'll be passing motorboats in no-wake zones at breakneck speeds; we get a lot of looks! As a matter of fact the other day we crossed Wallum Lake in MA and RI where some woman who was waterskiing behind her parent's boat encountered us, was buzzing around the lake as we were paddling North, and couldn't believe how quickly we reached the boat ramp on the northern shore.
Another element that is endearing of this boat is the light weight in the Advantage layup at 55lbs. Two people, even an adult and a strong child like our little one, my 10 year old who is 5'2" and VERY strong can carry it anywhere for rather long distances without tiring. Compared to our plastic doubles that we adore and cherish for dealing with rocky landings in rough conditions you have to be very careful as the fiberglass cannot be beached or launched from rocks unlike plastic. However this boat is so light it's very easy to be careful with it so unless you have strong waves that dash you against the rocks faster than you can get in getting on board with it already in the water isn't a problem.
Like many doubles it's very stable so jumping in with aplomb, even with my very long legs (I am nearly 6'5") is easy thanks to the large cockpit. The boat is stable enough that I don't need to brace much with the paddle but it's demeanor is much more playful than a heavier plastic boat.
The initial stability isn't there as much so you have to be very careful or you'll feel tippy. I went paddling with a friend of mine who had Canoe instructor certification from his younger days but gave it up as he doesn't derive income. He just came back from Canada where he canoes a lot and started to paddle my ST17 with the same kind of vigor and "digging in" where you roll the boat slightly to the side as you're paddling it. The ST17 and I didn't like it. Every stroke would make the boat wobble. Stellar boats are like that. The "calmer", more "recreational" as opposed to race boats have really good secondary stability and won't really flip unless you really do something wrong but like a docile yet playful hunting dog will startle and nip at you if you pet them the wrong way.
I liken Stellar boats to a high end race car with coilover suspension. There's a way these cars like to be driven, usually giving gas as soon as possible a certain way when going into a corner and unwinding the wheel, much like you'd have to handle a motorcycle, ATV or dirt bike. Each race car, or should I say each Stellar boat has its rythm and stroke and approach it likes best. You have to adapt to that otherwise you're in for a miserable ride but finding this is easy and once you get into the groove with how the boat wants to be handled, you're off to the races and feel like you're flying over the water.
This playful nature is spectacular. Turning, maneuvering and playing with the boat is very easy. Who thought anyone would describe a double as "playful". Stellar ST17 loves to romp. It's a two edge sword though because this responsiveness also means that wind, waves and current will toss you around more than an equivalent plastic barge, it's a two edge sword. The rudder helps a lot to maintain trim and is sometimes necessary to keep control of the boat especially in a bad crosswind. I must mention I love the spring loaded rudder both to retract and the fact that it's easier to find center.
On this vein once you get a feel for how the boat reacts you can take advantage of this playfulness and increased repsonsiveness to give minimal control inputs to set your course thus wasting the least amount of momentum when executing maneuvers so you get there sooner. And to stay on my motorcycle example, rather than looking close, it helps if you keep sight of a landmark or waypoint in the distance instead. If your bow is moving away from that you need to gently, without overcompensating as the responsiveness makes it easy to do, especially if you're used to plastic boats, maneuver to face it again.
One other element I am not crazy about is the Stellar seats. They are just not that comfortable. For longer paddles you can get back aches, butt aches; your legs don't fall asleep thankfully as they are reasonably ergonomic but these are lightweight seats made of Kevlar with minimal padding. Think racing and weight reduction which is Stellar's DNA. All is not lost though, you can find Airpro type over-seats for about $100 to stick on top and make your paddling experience comfortable on longer journeys across large expanses of water. This kayak devours miles so quickly it's an ideal boat for the task.
Another potential pitfall is a slight divorce boat tendency. At 17' 5" the two cockpits are close enough that one paddler can interfere with the other. One of the pair had better be attentive to what the person in the front is doing otherwise you're going to be hitting each other's paddles all the time. It's not horrible, you don't have to be in perfect synchrony but as opposed to doubles that are only a few inches longer like the Wilderness Systems Northstar or Polaris the difference in hitting each other's paddle is definitely felt. It's not so hard as to be divorce boat levels, but it's on the spectrum in a mild to moderate way so make sure to put the more attentive and experienced paddler in the stern as always.
What is particular about Stellar as opposed to other kayak companies is that their weights are not only realistic but a maximum. What I mean is that the 55lbs of the Advantage boat feels feather light and I can carry this boat alone whereas I have difficulty carrying a nominally 55lb plastic boat like the Wilderness Tsunami 140. This is because Stellar is one of the few companies that weighs all their components at every step of production and makes sure that the advertised weight, in this case 55lb is a guarantee in that their boat will never exceed that. So the truth is that while Stellar's trademark is making their boats lighter, the deviation from that weight is minimal and if anything will always be less. Other companies might advertise their boats weight but a boat clocking in at 55lbs might actually be just the bare hull, and have more variation hull to hull so it could have been their lightest hull ever produced while still not accounting for the weight of the seats, handles, rigging, rudder, foot pedals and other accessories. This is why the Stellar boats at their given weights feel so much lighter than any other boat that is sold at the "same" weight because in the end, thanks to Stellar's attention to detail and quality control their boat will always be lighter and I appreciate that.
I also appreciate that the Advantage layup, while expensive compared to some other fiberglass kayaks, is still very reasonably priced (look at the PH boats!) and is satisfyingly cheap to repair. So even if you're boneheaded you're not going to be hurting as bad as if you put a hole in a Kevlar or Carbon Fiber boat. And it can take a bit of damage impact wise, more than you think, just don't push it. The lighter weight means thinner hull so while a much heavier PH boat can go rock gardening or surfing with ease the Stellar boats will never withstand that kind of abuse and it is specifically so stated in their manual, their website and their warranty.
Then again as long as you're not involved in abusive type of activities best saved for your plastic boats, which is why I will never get rid of my rotomolded kayaks, all else being equal it's much easier to handle and be careful with these delicate, lightweight boats. Plus the maneuverability goes a long way to dodging rocks! Oh the question, agility vs raw power, who can survive better? There's no correct answer but Stellar is really the apex when it comes to lightweight, lovely, easy to handle, delightful to paddle and playfully maneuverable craft. They are the answer to everything you disliked about your plastic boat.
I am smitten with Stellar boats and their lush, deep personality and interactive feel. They are fast, efficient, playful boats that are easy to get going and very, very fast at all levels. They are a step up from the plastic boats' monolithic, one noted personality and a joy to not only paddle around, but carry thanks to their light weight yet relatively forgiving enough that you don't need to be an expert as the boat not only tells you when you're doing it wrong but rewards you with its stellar performance and handling when you're doing it right. No praise is too great for these exceptional Kayaks except for the seats which thankfully are not expensive or laborious to upgrade, you just slide an Airpro style kayak overseat for hours of paddling comfort.
If you've wanted a longer and faster boat to enjoy with a partner but was concerned about the heavy reputation and turned off by the idea of lugging around the lead sledge that a plastic double can be, try Stellar. You can actually carry or paddle these boats singly either alone or sticking a young child in front of you. They are forgiving enough that an older child who enjoys paddling can be with you and not worry about tipping, and so efficient that even minimal effort on their part can be felt in greater speed. But there is so much depth, so much performance, so many layers to this boat. It's a hard choice, if I only could have one boat to rule them all, it would be a tie between the Grabner Holiday 3 inflatable (also spectacular in its own way) and the Stellar ST17. Both are doubles that are light enough that can be carried by one person alone. Both are fast and playful for different reasons. The Grabner is more stable and holds 3 and is suprisingly efficient, maybe even more so than plastic despite being inflatable; it also weighs less. But the Stellar is more fun, playful and faster. A lot faster. And it has more layers of personality.
One boat to rule them all, if I could pick, it's a tough decision, but the Stellar boats offer so much depth, so much character I'd have to go with their design. If you want a lightweight, efficient composite with performance, handling and personality to spare, you'll love Stellar. They are exceptional and magnificent. I love our Stellar boats, and maybe the nicest paddling kayak I've had the pleasure to take out is the ST17.
As a postscript just to show my esteem of the ST17's characteristics I am planning two longer paddles, one an 11 mile trek north through the Sakonnet River where I live and it's considered a very challenging paddle to start at ocean's edge and go North. If all goes well I might do the big Sakonnet paddle with the wife. I am also training and getting into even better shape for a potential Block Island paddle through 15 miles of open Atlantic Ocean for next year with my canoe instructor buddy. I just paddled 20 miles this last weekend, 12 of them in the ST17 but in a more leisurely, touristy route on the northern Sakonnet so I think I am very close and up to both challenges with a little more training. Guess which boat I am thinking of taking out?
Grabner has done an outstanding job bringing a very different and unusual layup with uniquely endearing qualities enhanced by top notch engineering. Whoever would have thought that an inflatable kayak could be one of the lightest, most stable kayaks out there that remains very fast?
From the moment I contacted Grabner they inspired confidence with their knowledge, recommendations and customer service. They were a little insistent on making a sale but in the end their product was so amazing I am glad I purchased their magnificent boat. It's a long story but I spend a lot of time in Europe and wanted to have a kayak for us to use out there. I wanted the luxury of leaving it there since it would be a bit of a hassle to truck it back and forth but at the same time I had some issues with being able to send things that large to a European country, import taxes and all that jazz. Buying from Grabner directly in Austria was a big help.
The boat is unbelievably good. You didn't think an inflatable could paddle, maneuver and handle so incredibly well and I will get into the gory details but it's faster to sum up the negatives so I will start there. One big drawback (and there are two which I will discuss) is even for people with storage issues the Kayak cannot be stored folded for long periods of time. It will ruin the rubber and shorten the lifespan, you just can't roll it up and pack it in the back of a closet. You can de-inflate it but you have to roll it out and keep it flat, all 5+ meters or 17+ feet of it. Since no one uses the areas we stay while we're gone then it's not a big deal but if you live in a tiny apartment European style and think you can just tuck it at the bottom of a closet you can't or it won't last long. Short term storage, like a few days or weeks at a time is OK and will only shorten the lifespan slightly from a theoretical 20-25 years but that's the name of the game. So customers looking for something easy to store need to either go to the top of the price range with the foldable route or get a very cheap, flexible inflatable that paddles awful but then you just cram it wherever and not care (as much) if it gets ruined.
The other negative is the seats. They are not that comfortable and quickly start to ache your back. You have to set them properly like any kayak seat, they are thin and light and a bit flimsy so failure to do so will result in your discomfort being maximized more than any other seat but they're still not great. I recommend getting kayak seat covers that you can put over them, then its fine.
Other than that the Holiday 3 is a joy to paddle. Because the rubber is specially reinforced and of high quality it can withstand about 0.3 bar or ~about 4.4psi above atmospheric. This creates a very stiff boat that won't flex when you paddle. It's a funny feeling when you sit in the boat as it does move a bit more than a plastic or composite craft with waves, but when you actually paddle it nothing moves and you feel your effort moving the boat; it has a lightness about it that is more reminiscent but not quite as good as a composite, but certainly far nicer than a plastic layup.
What is very impressive is the low weight of only 43lbs. Comparable length and size boats that come in kevlar or even pure carbon fiber are far, far more expensive, a bit nicer to paddle, but are nowhere near as light. Even the Stellar ST17 in their Ultra carbon fiber layup is a few pounds more. What this means is a wonderful experience, even my 10 and 12 year old sons can grab one handle, I grab the other and we can carry it significant distances with only a handful of rest stops. The boat also accelerates nicely in the water and changes direction pretty deftly when desired. The light weight does make it a little more responsive to wind and waves, but I found it to be easier to control without a rudder than say my similarly sized Stellar ST17 in the fiberglass layup. As a matter of fact, while you can get a rudder, I just didn't bother. It takes longer to install the rudder than to inflate the craft and it's just one more thing to bother with. Not that I am complaining about the rudder, far from it, rather that the boat is plenty controllable without one even in wind and surf. It does go a little this way and that but it's so minor that the extra effort in installing the rudder doesn't seem worth it.
As far as the stability goes I think this is the most stable kayak I have ever paddled. The air gives it a very odd stability because the initial stability is just as much as a recreational or sit on top boat, but it has secondary stability in spades despite the hull being flat like a more basic sit on top design. This is because the air seems to add to the light weight. It wants to float, it doesn't want to get in the water deep enough to roll so there's a third stability past the primary and secondary stability just from the buoyancy thanks to the air. This is one of those try it to believe it as you won't feel it in any other kayak. That said the old adage that stability compromises speed doesn't apply. The speed is quite fast, not just because of the hull stiffness but also the length, and especially how high it sits in the water thanks to the air. You don't feel like you're drawing a whole lot of water, the resistance to paddling feels minimal.
The picture I am trying to weave to the prospective buyer is that this kayak has handling and performance characteristics that don't seem to follow the rules of normal kayaks because the inflatable gives it a different personality, all for the good. This boat rows to the beat of a different drummer.
While the price seems high I think it's not unreasonable when you consider the performance envelope of this boat. Where do you find a boat that is beginner stable yet retains a playful demeanor that remains fairly fast, extremely maneuverable, above average in stiffness and lighter than an equivalently sized carbon fiber design that costs only slightly more than an equivalent plastic kayak? It sounded too good to be true until Grabner came along. It's the real thing, it's that good.
Now don't get me wrong, the Stellar ST17 in their Advantage layup is still faster, more responsive, stiffer, more efficient and more playful and fun. Unfortunately it also costs a whole lot more and it's nowhere near as beginner stable for the family. It also weighs more
The seaworthiness is quite good but this kayak is open topped more like a canoe. You can paddle it either way with one or two bladed paddles but it comes with two bladed traditional kayak paddles. This is worth noting because if you need to use it in rough conditions with big waves while it handles them just fine you'll get some more water inside than with a kayak that has a deck. The freeboard is quite high so it's not as bad as you think but you have to anticipate rough seas. They do sell a spray skirt that you have to install the mounts yourself and it's a few hundred dollars but adds about 12lbs to the design. I didn't feel it necessary, it certainly is somewhat limiting in sea kayaking but then again I don't like going out in rough conditions. Worse comes to worse bringing a bail or two fixed the issue. I think it was originally designed for the Austrians to stuff in the back of their BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen station wagons to explore the relatively calm lakes in the alps and rivers with the occasional family trip to Croatia or Italy in the Adriatic. It can do more but you just have to be aware of the limitations.
You can also sit three people here but then it can turn into what they call a divorce boat. What I mean is with two people it feels huge and the paddles don't get in each other's way. If three people are paddling, say dad and the two children, then coordinating your strokes becomes more important. It's not a big deal though and can be mitigated by having the forward two just paddle along no matter what but assigning the rear most paddler, who can see what the other two are doing, to steer so he or she is able to stay out of the front two paddler's ways.
Other extras come such as the repair kit if you want one but I found the rubber to be quite durable. You have to be more careful with this boat than with plastic, but if you treat it like a composite and don't land or launch from the beach and always get in and out with the boat already on the water while avoiding rocks and other sharp things you'll be fine.
I love the Grabner 3 for its unique, vibrant personality, outstanding build quality and ease of transportation. I am slightly disappointed you can't store it all folded up but overall this boat is a delight to paddle. I would think this kayak makes a wonderful choice for people that like to travel a lot and bring their boat, especially when space is at a premium like when you fly or take a bus, or someone looking for a light boat and/or better performance than plastic that doesn't want to spend the money on a composite. For about the same to slightly more than the cost of a plastic double you get something half the weight, somewhat stiffer, much more transportable and less durable. If someone was thinking carbon fiber or kevlar but was balking at the price or the expensive repairs the Grabner boats could make a fantastic light weight option. You sacrifice some stiffness but you're lighter than just about anything else of the same size. The performance is real and taken for what this boat can do, the pricepoint which seems like a ludicrously high outlier for an inflatable, is actually very fair when you consider this boats behavior, handling, low weight, fit, finish, quality and overall capability.
We picked up our old Northstar from a neighbor that was moving out of state and did not have the ability to bring the boat with him. At a whopping 95lbs and 18+ feet in length I can see why. This is really the only negative. It's a beast to move, even in two people. Unless you have a trailer, are both Crossfit champions in a long term relationship, or live on the water where carrying it any distance is not an issue you are likely to have problems getting it around. Did I say it's a beast?
Well that's the only bad thing or drawback, everything else about this design is extremely impressive. The plastic is high quality and has held up to years of sitting under the sun, being dragged and launched and landed on rocky beaches or shores with minimal changes or damage. It doesn't seem to have aged much at all and appears to be nearly indestructible considering how much abuse we put it through.
As far as seakeeping this Kayak has it all. It's both extremely stable, much less tippy than any single I've tried, and very fast in a straight line. I can put one of my sons in the forward cockpit, when they were little I would have my wife follow along in a single and there was nothing she could do to keep up even though I was paddling alone. When we're both paddling this thing, it absolutely hauls ass. I never clocked any speeds but we tend to reach the same destinations we go to in our singles much sooner. If I had to guess this boat is probably 50% faster or more than a shorter single in the 12-14 feet range. Again, it's not a little difference, destinations compared to small to medium singles are reached very quickly.
The turning is a little slow unless both paddlers start to synchronize. I am sure it can be turned quick but we were never able to do so. That said I don't need to count on the rudder for turns either which works well for tracking in wind, I just take my time and don't treat it like a sports car, only a rocket ship for its straight line speed. Build quality of the seats, hatches and rudder has been excellent as has the durability of everything holding up.
The storage is amazing, there's lots of room with a huge bow and even bigger stern compartment; there's also a central compartment as well. This is an excellent long expedition boat in terms of gear storage and it's big, long and fast enough that even with some weight or cargo on board you can still make good time. The hatches are plastic and the nylon bands securing them have suffered some fatigue but at least you don't have to worry about rubber. Some of the ergonomics and fittings do look older and a bit dated but that's what you get when you paddle an old boat.
Wilderness now makes a replacement for the Northstar called the Polaris which is very similar and we bought one as the kids are old enough to paddle now, one parent in back with one kid in front, but still waiting on it. The main difference is that the Polaris is a bit shorter as it lacks the center storage compartment. IT does have a small cupholder or "day storage" compartment behind but pretty much handles and paddles very much like the Northstar. They do have the same name as Polaris is latin for the Northstar and while it's 10lbs lighter, I don't think I can tell much difference in the weight. So fret not, even though the Northstar is no longer in production and may be hard to find, you can still buy one anew with more modern fittings, 10lbs less, minus 5 inches of length and the center storage compartment in the Polaris.
I have enjoyed a Tsunami 140 for nearly 13 years on a bay and inland river that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. The craft handles really well and is both extremely stable and resistant to rolling or tipping as tracks exceptionally well, yet turns on almost, but not quite a dime. It's very responsive, planes easily and has good speed. We do get ocean like conditions and some nasty, sometimes 2 foot whitecaps in which I got stuck more than once. Obviously conditions such as this, especially with a head wind and into the current slow you down considerably but I was amazed at how well this kayak was able to confront such a challenge. I am sure that a more expensive Kayak would be faster or handle better but for the money this model is exceptional.
What I wanted to mention is that my inlaws also enjoy these Kayaks and the last few many years, asked us to just leave them on the beach at their house which is on the water. It's an incredibly rocky beach, you cannot step anywhere without your foot touching a rock of some size. Plus the Kayaks get left out for months on end. In short we've done everything you're not supposed to do to a paddelcraft, and never maintained it or took care of it but once. We weren't trying to be destructive but eventually these kayaks held up so well that if they broke tomorrow I would do things the same because given how much they were used and abused, I feel that I got my money's worth and the convenience of not having to ever worry or take care of it, especially when we had very small children, was a huge plus!
The storage compartments are quite large, the seats very comfortable and also adjustable and the rubber and materials have held up incredibly well despite being left out for months on end since the mid 2000's. They look a little beat up now but anything used this much and left outside won't appear to be museum quality. They still paddle, and the hatches and fixtures still work and move and seal as well as the day we got them brand new.
It's not too bad hauling it around but again we don't ever load it on the car, just enjoy it off the back yard. I would probably have more reservations about hauling it around and at the end of the day I always do it with my wife in tow helping as even at this weight it's a bit much to safely drag or haul around such an incredibly rocky beach. I think it I had to carry this Kayak alone on a flat surface without risk of slipping I can, as once I make it to the yard and put it away for the winter (or take it out for the spring) then it's not too bad indeed but probably at the upper limit of what I can comfortably carry for more than 10 feet.
If you want a solid, stable, fast ocean kayak that is exceptionally durable, will survive harsh conditions, and doesn't feel cheap you have to pay to play. This model really gives you just enough of a high end feeling with its performance, handling and good ocean manners without costing like a kayak that gives these qualities in spades. While there are more affordable models as well, the Tsunami, especially at this pricepoint, doesn't leave you wanting much more. Well, maybe a few more feet in length and a second cockpit, but now they make the Polaris!